Epsilon Spires showcases keyboard innovation with two concerts
Liz Durette

Epsilon Spires showcases keyboard innovation with two concerts

BRATTLEBORO — Baltimore-based musician Liz Durette will be featured in two concerts at Epsilon Spires in early September. The first, which will begin at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 7, is another installment of the free Lunchtime Pipe Organ series. The following night, Durette will play her own improvised keyboard works after a performance of the audio-visual collaboration Elegy for Harold Budd by Dave Seidel and Greg Kowalski.

For the Lunchtime Pipe Organ Series, Durette will play pieces by the 18th-century French composer François Couperin and his uncle, Louis Couperin, who invented a style of “unmeasured” preludes that leaves the length of each note up to the performer.

“These are a real treat - and challenge! - for an improviser,” Durette says about the preludes. “For the past few years I've been working on these alone at home at the piano, and they have an earthy, elegant quality that brings me so much joy.”

The Couperins were the most prolific family in French musical history, according to the news release. François Couperin, who held one of the highest ranks possible for a musician in the court of Louis XIV, was referred to as “le Grande” (“the Great”) to distinguish himself from the rest of his musical family.

Durette says that François Couperin's pieces were mostly written for harpsichord, but she believes they will translate well to the historic 1906 Estey pipe organ in the sanctuary of Epsilon Spires. She adds that his music is “characterized by very elegant and highly ornamented melodies, each of the short pieces having a very diverse character from one another.”

The concert on Thursday night, Sept. 8, begins with Elegy for Harold Budd, a multimedia performance that features interactive video projections by Greg Kowalski and music by Dave Seidel, who will play a modular synthesizer and a stringed electro-acoustic instrument influenced by Hindustani and Persian classical music.

The piece is a tribute to the avant-garde composer Harold Budd, who died in 2020 from COVID-19. Durette will play improvised compositions on the Estey pipe organ and an electronic keyboard called a Seaboard, which uses a touch-sensitive silicone pad to control MIDI outputs in an interface that Durette describes as “squishy and gestural.”

“Forgive me if I am purposely vague in describing what will go down, since who knows what will happen, but my aspiration is always boundlessness, untethering, and a liberated feeling of joy,” says Durette. “My goal is always to play music that is so beautiful that it might even become unbearable, and I won't stop!”

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